Golden fights for water in court

By The Associated Press

September 9, 2002

GREELEY — City leaders from Golden appeared in court Monday to challenge a state order mandating they shut off nearly half of the city’s water supply because it’s meant for communities downstream.

Golden claims the city has a right to water it is diverting from Clear Creek.

"We’re glad to be in court," city manager Mike Bestor said.

"We just wanted the chance to argue our case." Friday’s order from state engineer Hal Simpson mandated that Golden stop diverting water claimed by Westminster, Arvada, Thornton and other downstream users by Sunday.

Golden officials want a judge to prevent the order from being enforced and refused to turn off the water until the case is reviewed. The hearing was continuing Monday afternoon.

The diverted water accounts for nearly half of the water supply in Golden, one of the few Colorado cities that has not enacted water restrictions because of drought.

Its stored 6 million gallons of water would last a little more than a day if it is forced to comply with a state order to shut off nearly half of its water supply.

If the order is upheld, it would mean a total ban on outdoor water use and severe cutbacks for some businesses, Bestor said.

Golden has locked horns with the Farmers Highline Canal company and the three other cities before.

In 1999, the state Supreme Court upheld Golden’s right to $11 million worth of water from Clear Creek, in a suit brought by the canal company and three cities.

Golden has diverted water from the canal for 40 years, but the state engineer found that the diversion violates a contract stipulating Golden has no rights to the water in certain drought conditions.

Westminster Mayor Ed Moss said the downstream communities are all under watering restrictions and Golden isn’t because it is taking their water.

"We’ve cut back watering our parks, we’ve cut back people’s yards, we’re doing what other communities are doing, and so far Golden hasn’t stepped up to the plate," he said.

Bestor said voluntary restrictions have been more effective than Westminster’s mandatory cutbacks.

Few people in Golden seem aware of the potential water crisis.

At the Capital Grill, which has stopped serving water unless customers request it, waitress Lisa Coffin observed that lawns in the city’s northern subdivisions have fared almost too well in the record drought.

Vicki Stosak, 32, was curious why Golden has managed to last this long without mandatory restrictions. "I call the city every couple of weeks to make sure I’m still following the guidelines."